Henry Curtis and Bessie McDowell went to serve in Angola in 1917. They were co-founders of the Galangue Mission. The Galangue Mission was founded and staffed by African Americans in Angola. It was administered by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). He was chosen by the Colored Congregational Churches of Raleigh, North Carolina, to establish a station staffed by African Americans in cooperation with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). McDowell and his bride, Bessie Farnsville, were sent to Angola in 1919, and in 1923 they settled in Galangue, an area of unreached people.
In 1930, at a service commemorating fifty years of Congregational missions in Angola, the Galangue mission choir introduced a new song under the leadership of Bessie McDowell. Bessie’s own Ovimbundu translation of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” by James Weldon and J. Rosamond Johnson, commonly known as the “Negro National Anthem.” On that date, as Henry writes, “Galangue has made the first step, so far as I know, in making ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing’ the international anthem.”
Bessie passed away in 1942.
1944 Henry married Ruth. They returned to Angola in 1947.
Ruth established a children’s clinic which served the health and nutritional need of thousands of mothers and their babies. She was an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
In 1959 they retired from the ABCFM. In retirement, Henry briefly served as Africa chair at the Kennedy School of Missions in Hartford, Connecticut. They founded the Church of the Open Door in Miami, Florida, where he served until 1967.
Henry Curtis passed away in 1989. Ruth passed away in 2011.
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